The Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet

Sweet Oranges
NotTwo MW 971-2

Quentin Rollet/Jean-Marc Foussat/Christian Rollet

Entrée des Pays de grête

Bisou Records BIS-007 U/Fou Records CD 30

Paris-based Jean-Marc Foussat bifurcated career is half dedicated to his skillful recording of major French exploratory musicians such as bassist Joëlle Léandre , while the remainder of his time is taken up using his analogue AKS synthesizer to add to the creative sounds produced by sympathetic associates. Each of these CDs takes advantage of his dual personality, and such is the architecture of the sessions that each of his talents is used fruitfully.

Equally sparklingly recorded, each session represents a particular aspect of improvised music. Entrée des Pays de grête for instance celebrates the continuation of the French musical avant-garde, since Foussat’s playing partners are percussionist Christian Rollet, who has been part of Workshop de Lyon for half a century, and his son, saxophonist Quentin Rollet, whose time is split between Free Jazz and Avant Rock. Based around the concepts of American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, Sweet Oranges honors McPhee’s initial sonic and political mentor, trombonist Clifford Thornton (1936-1989). Besides Foussat and McPhee, the other players are baritone and tenor saxophonist Daunik Lazro and drummer Makoto Sato, with whom the synthesizer player has frequently recorded with in the past.

Divided into two shorter and one over-long track, Entrée des Pays de grête reflects the, near-anarchistic spirit of 1968, but with enough contemporary sophistication to keep it from becoming a NewThing nostalgia trip. From the first, the program begin with buzzing reeds, ring modulator pings and back-beat drumming and ends with a track that combines a literal martial drum beat with layers of amplified and overdubbed processed voices playing hide-and-seek among the textures produced by clicking throbs from the synthesizer and Q. Rollet’s staccato squeals. Centepiece however is “Au Fond Des Puys”, which is almost twice the length of the other two selections combined. As drum beats sprawl across the sound field and the accelerating Foussat-created vocal chorus swells to Wagnerian proportions, while mixing with watery oscillations, the saxophonist punctuates the blurry onslaught with split tones, flutter tonguing and jagged timbre explorations. By the time Rollet’s trills become so discordant that they begin to resemble the output from comb-and-tissue paper blowing, the backing follows suit, with lawnmower-like drone and signal processed almost surmounting the vibrated reed slurs. Finally stasis is reached as the drum beat moderates and follows the saxophone’s buzzes and whistles fading into the background.

If the trio’s cooperative skills on Entrée des Pays de grête offers a unique, updated-through-processing take on classic French Free Music, then Sweet Oranges does the same for the American variety, as well as propelling a melancholy threnody for Thornton. Throughout its one extended track and a cursory refinement of the obvious encore, the four musicians work through the theme with a logic of their own. McPhee’s valve trombone introduction and much later tenor saxophone elaborations refer back to bedrock Blues which also coursed through Thornton’s work. Seconded by Lazro’s saxophones lines which often evolve in double counterpoint with McPhee’s, the slurs, jitters and split-tone vibrations create almost unbearable intensity, further advanced by dual-keyboard-like vamps from Foussat plus drums and cymbal toughness from Sato. Mid-way through, the track opens up enough so both saxophonists’ Trane influence brings out exploratory nuances that linked Trane’s and Thornton’s transformative talents. Most notably, the players' collective skills keep the Blues from ever entering dirge territory. Eventually as signal-processed flanges and crackling static bury the “Taps” reference Foussat appears to be outputting, continuation and hope, expressed with a snatch of Coltrane’s “Olé” puts the splashing deconstruction from both saxophones into context, ending the pressurized improvisation with a hopeful outlook.

Integral to the sophisticated expression of these improvisations, Foussat’s programming aids the interpretations without bringing undue attention to its electronic qualities. This combination of acoustic and electronic also confirms the high standards of these Foussat-affiliated outings.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Entrée: 1. Entrée Par La Fenêtre 2. Au Fond Des Puys 3. Roulement De Grêle

Personnel: Entrée: Quentin Rollet (alto and sopranino saxophones and electronics): Christian Rollet (drums and percussion) and Jean-Marc Foussat (analogue AKS synthesizer and voice)

Track Listing: Sweet: 1. Sweet Oranges 2. Encore

Personnel: Sweet: Joe McPhee (tenor saxophone and valve trombone); Daunik Lazro (baritone and tenor saxophones); Makoto Sato (drums) and Jean-Marc Foussat (analogue AKS synthesizer and voice)